Blog

Posted - 18-08-2014 No Comments

Collections

Sir Watkin and the Italian Castrato

As the musical world celebrates the tercentenary of Gluck (1714-1787), the star of Orfeo ed Euridice emerges from the account books of a Welsh estate. Previous to his role in Gluck’s opera the Italian castrato, Gaetano Guadagni (1728-1792) had become a London ‘celeb’, through professional contacts with Handel and David Garrick, sleazy lifestyle notwithstanding; and to London he returned in 1769.

Portrait of Sir Watkin Williams Wynn – by kind permission of the National Museum of Wales

Portrait of Sir Watkin Williams Wynn – by kind permission of the National Museum of Wales

Guadagni’s audience at the King’s Theatre included Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, the greatest Welsh patron of art and music in the eighteenth century. His name was linked with John Parry, the blind harpist, the Antient Concerts and the Handel Commemoration Concert in Westminster Abbey, 1784. He idolised both Handel and David Garrick, so he must have found Guadagni’s style utterly captivating. These are some of the heart-melting arias written for Guadagni.

Sir Watkin invited Guadagni and Stephen Paxton to perform at the installation of a new Snetzler organ in Ruabon church. Their astronomical fees are recorded in the Wynnstay accounts (October 1770):

Gave Mr Guadagni by Sir Watkins order having been 8 weeks at Wynnstay £100-0-0.

Pd Mr Paxton for the same time 60 guinees & gave him towards his expences 10 guineas £73-10-0.

Wynnstay accounts, 1770 (NLW, Wynnstay Estate Records, EH4/2, p. 32)

Wynnstay accounts, 1770 (NLW, Wynnstay Estate Records, EH4/2, p. 32)

Guadagni quarrelled with his manager and appeared before the magistrates for performing unlicensed opera at Carlisle House. The adverse publicity did not diminish the adulation of his devoted fan. Wynnstay accounts for March 1771 record that £20 was paid to Guadagni for singing at Grosvenor Square. He dedicated the libretto of Orfeo (1771) to Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, denying any further professional remuneration: …..with all due respect to the public, that in performing the part of Orpheus, I require no other bribe, or reward, than the pleasure of shewing you a ready obedience.

Eventually Guadagni returned to Padua but Sir Watkin Williams Wynn must have remembered the astounding voice of the Italian castrato.

Hilary Peters

Posted - 14-08-2014 No Comments

Uncategorized

Speed’s Wales : A recently purchased atlas

The name Speed is famously synonymous with antiquarian maps. John Speed (1552-1629) remains the most eminent of English cartographers, a reputation primarily secured by his atlas “The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine” , initially published in 1611/12. The “Theatre”, the first atlas of the British Isles, proved very successful and was issued by several publishers from its inception until 1770. Its individual county maps are the best known and among the most coveted of antiquarian county maps.

 

Picture 512

 

Speed attempted to produce his maps from the most reliable and contemporary sources available. He reaped, yet acknowledged the fruits of others’ labours but also introduced innovations, notably town views or plans which appear as insets on many of his maps, together with the boundaries of counties and hundreds and the coats of arms of Royalty and local gentry. In so doing Speed created highly informative, decorative, and attractive maps.

In July the Library purchased the Welsh component of the “Theatre”, known as the “Second Booke containing the Principality of Wales”. The volume comprises a general map of Wales, flanked with inset views of the county towns plus four cathedrals and thirteen individual maps of the Welsh counties, each with one or two urban insets. The maps name and locate towns, larger villages, estates, sites of historic interest and rivers. Hills and mountains are represented pictorially. Each map is coloured, its verso (or reverse side) carrying descriptions of the area depicted. The atlas is competently and appealingly bound in calfskin.

 

Picture 513

 

In spite of the date 1662 on the title page, this edition of the “Second Booke” was published in London by Roger Rea the Elder and Younger about 1665, its manifestation unfortunately coinciding with the Great Fire of London. Many copies were lost in the devastation and consequently the Rea editions are amongst the scarcest editions of the “Theatre”. This atlas is thus a rarity of Welsh cartography. The Library also possesses other editions of the “Second Booke” with its Welsh maps dating from 1611 to 1713, as well as examples of the “Theatre” with its maps of other British counties and countries.

Gwilym Tawy

Posted - 05-08-2014 No Comments

Exhibitions

Dylan Online

Today we launch an online exhibition of Dylan Thomas manuscripts, which mirrors the physical exhibition that can be seen at the Library until 20 December 2014.

© David Highams Associates

Dylan Thomas, Rhestr o eiriau ‘Poem on His Birthday’ Word List © David Highams Associates

 

Over 150 digital images can be viewed on the website, varying from Dylan’s passport, personal letters to friends and family and notes relating to some of his most famous poems, to drafts of stories, broadcasts and scripts, his hand-drawn map of Llareggub and a collection of his doodles.

The National Library houses the largest archive of material in the world relating to the ‘rock-and-roll’ poet, and although many of his manuscripts can currently be seen in the physical exhibition, even more can be seen in detail on the website. We hope to add further material over the next months and years as a legacy to Dylan Thomas’ centenary celebrations.

This fantastic digital archive is now available to everyone from all four corners of the earth free of charge, so why not take a look and browse this valuable collection relating to the Welsh literary icon.

Posted - 04-08-2014 No Comments

News and Events

First World War Digital Commemoration Programme

The Library’s commemoration programme forms a key part of the Welsh Government’s Cymru’n Cofio –  Wales Remembers 1914-1918 Programme

Wales RemembersCymru’n Cofio Wales Remembers 1914-1918 is the official site for information on how Wales will mark the centenary of the First World War in Wales. It provides a focal point for information on the latest news, projects, events and signposting services for the programme of commemoration which will take place in Wales from 2014 to 2018.

The National Library of Wales is pleased to announcte an integrated programme of digital projects and resources that will commemorate the impact of the First World War in Wales, and provide a lasting legacy for research, teaching, and public engagement.

Remembering the First World War

Today we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. To mark the occasion, the Library has now made available a number of key resources that will be invaluable throughout the commemorative period. All are free for use and re-use around the world, reflecting the Library’s strategy of “knowledge for all”, and recognising that our impact extends far beyond people who can travel to the Library in Aberystwyth to work with our unique and priceless primary sources and documentary heritage.

Accessing our heritage

The National Library of Wales has been preparing this programme of resources, and their use, for more two years. In August 2012, at the National Library’s stand at the Eisteddfod, the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, outlined his vision for the Commemoration of the First World War: one that made sure that Welsh experiences of the conflict were captured digitally for future generations. On that occasion, the First Minister also heard about the Library’s plans for an integrated digital commemoration programme.

Cymru1914.org

Cymru1914.org our flagship digital archive of the First World War, was funded by Jisc and the Welsh Government and launched in November 2013. It contains over 200,000 pages of archives and special collections of Wales that reveal the unseen histories of the First World War and its impact on all aspects of Welsh society: economics, language, art, and literature. The material comes from our own collections here at the National Library, and a range of partners, including WHELF (the Welsh Higher Education Libraries Forum), National Library of Wales, Bangor University, Cardiff University, Aberystwyth University, Swansea University, University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s, the local archives of Conwy, Flintshire, Glamorgan, and Gwent, BBC Cymru Wales Archive, and community content generated with The People’s Collection, Wales.

The Library will add resources to this archive throughout the commemoration period, including additional newspapers; the Cardiganshire Great War Tribunal (Appeals) Records; Saunders Lewis Letters; the Welsh Horse Lancers Research Papers Archive; as well as books (including novels), periodicals, diaries and letters. We hope to also add partner materials based on the availability of additional funding.

Cymru1914.org

Other digital resources from the Library that are useful for the study of this period include:

Welsh newspapers and journals available on-line, free of charge

Welsh Newspapers Online, up to 1 million pages of English and Welsh language newspapers from 1804-1919. The text of the newspapers has been through optical character recognition, making the full text searchable

welshnewspapers.llgc.org.uk

Welsh Journals Online offers access to scholarship from Wales through back issues of 50 titles, from academic and scientific publications to literary and popular magazines.

We also encourage you to browse our digital art and photographic collections, as they also contain key materials from the period, and the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales is also a important source of materials for study.

Learning resources: the Wales at War app and our educational programme

Iwalesatwar.orgn addition, the Library is leading two digital education projects about the First World War. Wales at War, funded by the HLF, the WG Education Department, and the Armed Forces Covenant fund will build an app that will help schoolchildren research the names on their local War Memorials in Wales.

The National Library of Wales and National Museum Wales are leading a project to produce education resources for schools to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. As part of this project we are using items from the collections of both institutions to create digital teaching resources for Hwb, the all-Wales learning platform. The formats of these resources vary, and include Word, PDF, PowerPoint, iBooks and interactive web technology.  This work is funded by Welsh Government Department of Education and Skills. Learning resources can be downloaded from The National Library of Wales Education website.

A learning pack of World War 1 material printed from our collections will be disseminated to schools across Wales, and is available from the National Library of Wales on-line shop.

It is important that our digital commemorative programme meets the needs of as many people and organisations as possible around the world, to ensure that Wales’ distinctive experience and contribution is properly reflected. In developing our digital programme, the Library has drawn on the advice of experts in the fields of history, literature, art and music have to ensure future generations gain a better understanding of these monumental events and their impact.

Research

Cymru1914.org is being widely used for research, and outputs of this are becoming visible in print and online publications. Dr Paul O’Leary at Aberystwyth University used it to develop research on the impact of the Great War on Merthyr and the Valleys; Dr Gethin Matthews at Swansea has integrated the material into a volume of essays on Welsh History. It is also the source of investigations of different narratives of the War in the Welsh and English language documents: Ifor ap Glyn used it as the source of a presentation at a international conference on Languages in the First World War in June 2014.

Public access, free of charge

The resource has, and will continue to be, a valuable focus for public engagement, especially family history: it has been used at several events, including the BBCs Who Do you Think You Are roadshows. Analysis of usage statistics shows that it is popular outside Wales, especially for research and by the Welsh diaspora. It has been used as the basis of research for TV and radio programmes about the First World War.

And the Library’s attention has not been on the battles on land and sea alone. At the Royal Agricultural Show this year, the Library mounted an innovative new exhibition focusing on the impact of the War on rural communities in Wales, on the ‘home front’. This week at the Eisteddfod Genedlaethol, we are presenting a series of events featuring key commentators and historians, from Sir Deian Hopkin and Catrin Stevens, to Aled Eirug, Gethin Matthews and our own Lyn Lewis Dafis. On Friday, 8 August, we will, for the first time ever, take the bardic Chair won by T.H.Parry Williams back to the Eisteddfod Maes -exactly one hundred years after the coming of War had abruptly cancelled the celebration.

Art and cultural production

Today, the celebrated Welsh artist Bedwyr Williams will use images from the collection of photographs that can be found in Cymru1914.org in his striking installation piece, Traw, the Welsh centerpiece of the 14-18-Now LIGHTS OUT event in Bangor. Other activities will be taking place across Wales and all around the UK, with worldwide coverage.

Commemoration: collectively remembering the War that shaped the 20th century – and the 21st?

It seems fitting that on the 100th anniversary of the First World War, images, documents and archival sources from the collections of the National Library of Wales will be digitally available to all, free of charge, all around the world.

This shows clearly the scale of the National Library’s digital commemoration programme, the extent of the legacy it will leave behind for future generations, and the Library’s ongoing commitment to the principle of ‘knowledge for all.’

Posted - 01-08-2014 No Comments

Collections / Digitisation / Reader Services / Research / Wills

Wills online – bringing the past to life.

Though always informative, it must be remembered that the wills left by our ancestors are legally binding documents and as such follow a rather dry format, leaving little room for the writer’s individuality to shine through. However there are exceptions – little gems of eccentricity or affection that begin to colour the faded lives of the dead.

The last will and testament of the Rev. Henry Williams (c.1769-1825) begins in the usual manner – “In the name of God my Saviour, I Henry Williams of the town of Cardiff”. Yet, we soon find great bitterness in the testator’s words;

“Not one farthing is to go through the hands of that accomplished villain William Higgon…who killed my sister through cruel usage”. This, swiftly followed by “Rees and his wife are disinherited for the lies, imposition and bad usage they heaped upon me”

More interesting still is the elderly vicar’s passionate homage to his late Grandfather, and his reminiscences of childhood;

“The venerable Thomas Williams, the Gentleman, the Scholar, the Christian, having lived in happy wedlock with Mary his wife 65 years, a woman of the greatest industry, a mother to the poor and adorned with every Christian virtue, whose prayers I heard put up for me when a child”

The will continues with instructions to finish his house in Lanishen and to rename it “Chapel House, being formally a place of worship, and I remember part of the Ten Commandments on one of the walls”

So who was this “venerable grandfather”? And what of the house with its biblical décor? One discovery led to another and, using our online catalogue, I soon discovered a bundle of research notes into one Thomas Williams of Lanishen. It transpires that the grandfather had been a Methodist exhorter in the 1740’s, and his house, a meeting place for likeminded evangelists. The great hymnist Charles Wesley took shelter there during a fierce storm and thereafter the Wesley brothers were always welcomed at the “Chapel house” at Lanishen.

And all this from a few lines of a will. Search today and unlock the past!

Jason Evans

Tags: ,

Posted - 30-07-2014 No Comments

News and Events

LIGHTS OUT

server

A photograph from the DC Harries archive in cymru1914.org: “A private in the Welsh Regiment”, used by Bedwyr Williams, in Traw http://cymru1914.org/en/view/photographs/3891065

Four leading international artists have been commissioned by 14-18-NOW to create striking public artworks in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England as part of LIGHTS OUT, a nationwide event that invites everyone in the UK to take part by turning off their lights from 10pm to 11pm on 4 August to mark the centenary of the outbreak of World War One
The installation that has been created for Wales as part of this unique event will contain images of unknown recruits and conscripts from Wales documented in the cymru1914.org digital archive developed by the archives and special collections of Wales.

In a powerful piece called Traw, Welsh artist Bedwyr Williams has created a large-scale video and sound installation that will be presented at the site of the North Wales Memorial Arch, Bangor. The memorial takes centre stage in front of images projected onto the enormous facing wall of Bangor University’s new Pontio Arts and Innovation Centre.

Taking photographs found in the digital archive, cymru1914.org, Williams creates a sequence of images of local military and civilian personnel who were affected by WW1.  Excluding all uniform and references to rank, the close up faces reveal something of the individual’s personality and personal sacrifice in a war where death was measured in millions. Traw is a Welsh word meaning to strike.  A resonating soundtrack that centres on a slowed down clock ticking underpins the work and will be felt, as much as heard, across the city. Bedwyr Williams is one of Wales’ leading visual artists.  He lives and works in north Wales and his work takes many different forms, including installation, performance, drawing, sculpture and increasingly film.  In 2013 he represented Wales at the Venice Biennale.

D.C. Harries glass plate negative collection at NLW
The images that will be seen in Traw are taken from the D.C. Harries collection of glass plate negatives held by the National Library of Wales. The Library has digitized around 200 images from this collection, thought to be First World War recruits or conscripts from Llandeilo and Ammanford (Rhydaman), where DC Harries operated photographic studios. Most are individual images, some are group shots with friends or family. Dates of 1914-18 are given for most of the images, though some can be more accurately dated by the presence of Overseas Service Chevrons worn on the right forearm which were introduced in December 1917; or wound stripes, introduced in July 1916. However, they are all anonymous – we do not know the identities of these unknown service personnel.
The use of studio portrait photography for this sort of portraiture was also used near the beginning of photography, during the American Civil War. This type of image was in its last flourishing at the time of the First World War.

Useful Links:
D C Harries and his business
The D C Harries Collection
Portrait photography during the American civil war

The digital archive cymru1914.org was launched in November 2013. It was funded by Jisc, and is a partnership of archives and special collections of Wales. It brings together content from the National Library of Wales; Bangor University; Cardiff University; Aberystwyth University; Swansea University; University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s; Local archives of Conwy, Flintshire, Glamorgan, and Gwent; BBC Cymru Wales Archive, and community content generated through The People’s Collection Wales. The archive reveals the hidden histories of the Welsh experience of the First World War, and brings together over 200,000 pages of historic archives, manuscripts, newspapers and photographs. The digital archive is freely accessible for use and re-use – for research, teaching, and all aspects of commemoration.

The images in Cymru1914 are just a very small sample of over 2,000 First World War portraits in the DC Harries archive. Next year, the project hopes to digitise many more and launch a crowdsourcing experiment, inviting digital community engagement to help identify the people in the images, commemorating and making their mark on history at last.

LIGHTS OUT
Millions of people are expected to take part in LIGHTS OUT around the UK. Hundreds of local authorities, iconic buildings, national organisations, parish councils and places of worship have already pledged their support.
LIGHTS OUT is being organised by 14-18 NOW, the official cultural programme for the First World War Centenary Commemorations.

Lights Out

Press Release

Bedwyr Williams

#LightsOut

Posted - 16-07-2014 No Comments

Collections

Archives newly released

The list below of archives which have recently been added to the Online Catalogue shows how the Library can satisfy the demands of a wide range of users seeking primary materials in order to further their research. The subject areas represented in the archives include archaeology, art and sculpture, literature, music, together with family and local history.

Collecting personal papers of individuals ‘who have played an important role in the life of the nation’ has always featured prominently in the Library’s Collection Development Policy. Such collections are not only essential for biographical purposes, but they also throw a wider light on the subject matter in question, and contain valuable information on other prominent individuals engaged in the same profession or sharing similar interests. Thus, not only do the papers of Jonah Jones (1919-2004) reflect his work as a sculptor, artist and writer, but the inclusion of letters to him from a wide circle of friends and colleagues, such as Melvyn Bragg, John Petts and Jan Morris, add to the research potential of the archive. Similarly, the papers of Sir Cyril Fox (1882-1967) not only include his working papers as an archaeologist, but also personal and professional correspondence, and papers accumulated by his son during the preparation of his father’s biography.

The completion of the cataloguing work on The Jeff Towns (Dylan Thomas) Collection is timely in that it coincides with the Dylan Thomas 100 Festival, (http://dylanthomas100.org/english/) the year-long celebration of the birth of one of Wales’ greatest literary talents. This archive was acquired by the Library from Jeff Towns, an antiquarian bookseller based in Swansea who, for many years, has actively collected books, photographs, manuscripts, and other materials compiled by, or relating to, Dylan Thomas. Included are scripts, correspondence, programmes and papers relating to the publication of Under Milk Wood, and radio, stage and film productions of the play, 1953-2005, together with letters by Dylan Thomas, and the letters and papers of his wife Caitlin, their three children and his parents, 1935-2007.   Some of the items from this Collection can be seen in the Library’s multi-media exhibition (http://www.llgc.org.uk/visit/things-to-do/exhibitions0/dylan/), an unique opportunity (until 20 December 2014) to celebrate the life and work of this iconic Welsh literary figure.

 

Early drafts, including words, phrases, and a list of possible verse forms, written by Dylan Thomas whilst composing the unfinished poem ‘Elegy’ to his father in 1953.

 

The three remaining archives recently added to the Online Catalogue are the product of organizations or businesses, rather than individuals. Firstly, the Welsh Music Information Centre Manuscripts and Papers, containing a large number of music scores by numerous Welsh composers including Alun Hoddinott, J. R. Heath, Arwel Hughes and Ian Parrott; secondly, Roberts & Evans, Aberystwyth (Solicitors) Records, comprising both office and clients’ papers, and containing valuable information on numerous families and estates, mainly in Cardiganshire; and thirdly, the Wynnstay Estate Records, comprising the estate and family records, 1183-1946, of the influential Wynn and Williams Wynn family of Wynnstay, Denbighshire, who owned land throughout North Wales. Not only does this archive contain records relating to the day-to-day administration of the estate, such as title deeds, rentals and accounts, but also includes family and estate correspondence; antiquarian, legal and literary manuscripts; a group of early charters and deeds, 1183-1676, from the Cistercian Abbey of Strata Marcella near Welshpool, Montgomeryshire; account rolls of Sir Richard Wynn, Treasurer to Queen Henrietta Maria, 1627-1649; together with manorial and legal records, and parliamentary election papers. Few other estate archives at this Library contain such diverse records of interest to a wide range of users, and it is hoped that the mammoth task of arranging and listing such a large archive (182 boxes and 591 volumes) has helped to unlock its potential to present and future users.

 

‘Wynne Stay, seat of Sir Watkins Williams Wynne’ by John Ingleby, (1749-1808)

 

Sir Cyril Fox Papers

Jonah Jones Papers

Roberts & Evans, Aberystwyth (Solicitors) Records

Jeff Towns (Dylan Thomas) Collection

Welsh Music Information Centre (WMIC) Manuscripts and Papers

Wynnstay Estate Records

 

Alwyn Roberts

Posted - 10-07-2014 No Comments

ArAgor / Collections

A great start for #ArAgor

There was a great response to our #ArAgor research project when it was mentioned in my presentation at Digital Innovation Week Wales event in Cardiff on Monday. The project looks at how we demonstrate and measure the value and impact of sharing digital collections openly.

Some have asked for more details about what we are looking for. Here are some types of information that would be of interest:

  • examples of ways in which digital collections (single items, sets or whole collections) have been used after being freed of restrictions (e.g. derivative products or works, applications or services based open collections);
  • outputs of research into the open access business model and how it compares with more closed models;
  • ways of demonstrating the value and impact of making digital collections open (e.g. measuring and – if possible – putting a value on brand exposure and reputation)
  • tools or approaches to finding out how digital collections are being used once they have been made open (e.g. reverse image searching)

Please let us know if you have any information to share with us! You can comment on the blog posts, tweet using the #ArAgor hashtag, or you can email us at rights@llgc.org.uk

Posted - 07-07-2014 No Comments

Collections

Pennant’s ‘History of Whiteford and Holywell’

Picture 013

 

The Library recently acquired a very fine copy of Thomas Pennant’s History of Whiteford and Holywell  1796. Of all his topographical works this is, to my mind, the most intimate and personal. He begins the volume talking of his mansion Downing as the place where he ‘first made entrance into this busy world’. What follows is a piece of delightfully understated family history and legend which leads us into the main theme of the text.
Pennant had the ability to portray his subject in vivid prose, so when combined with the polished watercolours of Moses Griffith any work would be a success. In this volume, purchased at Bonhams, New Bond Street on 19 June 2013 (lot 200) we have a revelation: it includes full page watercolours signed and dated by the artist almost every time as 1795. The watercolours were produced on single sheets then pasted into the volume, forming extra-illustrations to the text. This method of illustration, known as Grangerisation was very popular at the period and the Pennant volume represents a high point in that craft. Although curious to say there is one page (after p122) which bears a watercolour by Moses painted directly on the bound paper. Things are never straight-forward with Pennant.
Why am I so excited by this volume?  Because it is clear evidence of  the patronage of Moses by a contemporary of Pennant. We know that the artist undertook commissions for individuals but here we can study how that was constructed. I will leave the quest for that patron for someone else but say that Moses’s contribution to antiquarian works of the late 18th century in Wales was immense. Now we can study this volume beside the Downing copies, produced for Pennant himself and perhaps find some answers.

Dr Paul Joyner

Posted - 06-07-2014 No Comments

ArAgor / Collections

Research project measuring the value and impact of open digital collections kicks off!

geoff_charles_billy_meredith

 

What is the impact of sharing digital collections openly? What value is open access generating for the user, for wider society and the economy and for the organisation sharing its collections? How can the value and impact of open digital collections be measured?

These are some of the questions that we’ll be seeking to answer in a research project entitled #ArAgor launched as part of the National Library’s research programme.

If you are also interested in discovering answers to these questions, and if you have any experiences, information or evidence that may contribute to this project, please join us by including #ArAgor in your tweets and posts on this subject or contacting us on rights@llgc.org.uk.

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About this blog

A blog about the work and collections of the National Library of Wales.

Due to the more personal nature of blogs it is the Library's policy to publish postings in the original language only. An equal number of blog posts are published in both Welsh and English, but they are not the same postings. For a translation of the blog readers may wish to try facilities such as Google Translate.

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